Man, the battle for the title was a tough one. It came down to the wire between the Roxy calendar, which had its lucky den of calendar girls going full-monty this year, and the Barberdolls.com calendar, which had its ladies in exhibitionist Aguilera-esque outfits, coming up with new and inventive uses for barbershop equipment. But Life as a Sport suddenly piqued our interest. For starters, it featured not scantily clad or nekkid women but chiseled, occasionally bare-chested men. But this calendar wasn't conceived as an item for the ladies -- and a few dudes -- to stare at. Accompanied by the poetry of Joseph Washington, who came up with the calendar's concept, the photos are portraits of men using everyday sporting activities as a method of striving through life's rough terrains -- sports as therapy. Many of the stark black-and-white photos, captured by Harry Guary, are reminiscent of the pics Howard Bingham shot of Muhammad Ali. Life as a Sport may not have girls in Helmut Newton poses or flashin' booty like they're in Players Magazine, but it does give you something deeper to think about.
Who will be the next artistic director of Houston Ballet? No one knows for sure, but choreographer Trey McIntyre certainly garnered a lot of ballet-world buzz with this year's world premiere of his Peter Pan. Unlike most story ballets, in which mime-acting propels a thin plot between big dance numbers, McIntyre's creation used the steps to tell the story and the story to inform the steps. His version of the fairy tale was much darker than Disney's, with plenty of Freudian layers for grown-ups to mull over. Mauricio Canete, in the lead role, proved himself an expressive actor as well as an energetic dancer. And in a masterful use of wire and pulleys, the performers actually appeared to fly. Need we say more?
Who will be the next artistic director of Houston Ballet? No one knows for sure, but choreographer Trey McIntyre certainly garnered a lot of ballet-world buzz with this year's world premiere of his Peter Pan. Unlike most story ballets, in which mime-acting propels a thin plot between big dance numbers, McIntyre's creation used the steps to tell the story and the story to inform the steps. His version of the fairy tale was much darker than Disney's, with plenty of Freudian layers for grown-ups to mull over. Mauricio Canete, in the lead role, proved himself an expressive actor as well as an energetic dancer. And in a masterful use of wire and pulleys, the performers actually appeared to fly. Need we say more?
Among the many downtown clubs, one stands above the rest. From one night to the next, you'll be mesmerized by the diverse vibes at Lotus Lounge. Tuesday nights bring "Soulphilia," where your senses are tantalized by everything from live bands and DJs to performance artists, henna tattooing and massage therapy. On "Threesome Thursdays," trios get in gratis and the ladies get free champagne and strawberries. Some nights after last call, Lotus stays open till almost dawn. Why call it a night? It's worth facing the Main Street construction to experience Lotus's sexy mix of party people.

Among the many downtown clubs, one stands above the rest. From one night to the next, you'll be mesmerized by the diverse vibes at Lotus Lounge. Tuesday nights bring "Soulphilia," where your senses are tantalized by everything from live bands and DJs to performance artists, henna tattooing and massage therapy. On "Threesome Thursdays," trios get in gratis and the ladies get free champagne and strawberries. Some nights after last call, Lotus stays open till almost dawn. Why call it a night? It's worth facing the Main Street construction to experience Lotus's sexy mix of party people.

Many nationally touring headliners agree: Houston's comedy scene is prodigious. On Mondays, the Laff Stop is the place where local comedians gather to work on their craft. You'll see the whole range, from nervous wannabes reading from notebooks to seasoned professionals trying out new material. They're five minutes apiece, so you won't have to suffer long, and you're guaranteed at least a couple of good laughs. Like everything popular these days, they've added a sequel, Open Mike II, on Thursdays. And with no cover charge or drink minimum, the price is right. A number of the club's headliners -- Louis CK (Chris Rock's chief writer), Wanda Sykes, Mitch Hedberg and Joe Rogan, to name a few -- have been known to do some time on the small stage the week they're playing the club. The only thing you'll be risking is a round of payback should you decide to heckle the wrong comic.
Many nationally touring headliners agree: Houston's comedy scene is prodigious. On Mondays, the Laff Stop is the place where local comedians gather to work on their craft. You'll see the whole range, from nervous wannabes reading from notebooks to seasoned professionals trying out new material. They're five minutes apiece, so you won't have to suffer long, and you're guaranteed at least a couple of good laughs. Like everything popular these days, they've added a sequel, Open Mike II, on Thursdays. And with no cover charge or drink minimum, the price is right. A number of the club's headliners -- Louis CK (Chris Rock's chief writer), Wanda Sykes, Mitch Hedberg and Joe Rogan, to name a few -- have been known to do some time on the small stage the week they're playing the club. The only thing you'll be risking is a round of payback should you decide to heckle the wrong comic.
In the past, the Rice Cinema has flown under the public's radar, yet has been responsible for lining up some of the most innovative selections around. In addition to many collaborations with the Museum of Fine Arts and other theaters on such projects as the Latin American Film Festival and the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the theater has done its own compilations of Nordic films and a Charlotte Rampling retrospective. After all this, the university has finally gotten behind the theater and provided a new screen and some much-needed projectors, including one that can show 70mm films, making Rice the only venue in town able to do so. Now that they've upgraded the theater with Dolby Digital Surround Sound, we hope it will get the public recognition it deserves.
Rice Media Center
In the past, the Rice Cinema has flown under the public's radar, yet has been responsible for lining up some of the most innovative selections around. In addition to many collaborations with the Museum of Fine Arts and other theaters on such projects as the Latin American Film Festival and the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the theater has done its own compilations of Nordic films and a Charlotte Rampling retrospective. After all this, the university has finally gotten behind the theater and provided a new screen and some much-needed projectors, including one that can show 70mm films, making Rice the only venue in town able to do so. Now that they've upgraded the theater with Dolby Digital Surround Sound, we hope it will get the public recognition it deserves.
Brian Jucha is one of the best things that has happened to Infernal Bridegroom Productions. The artistic director of New York City's Via Theater, an avant-garde company known in the Big Apple for its neo-Expressionist style, brought his original take on theater to Houston this past spring with his production of We Have Some Planes. The results were extraordinary. Of course, he'd already established a good working relationship with IBP back in 1997 with his evocative Last Rites. This year, Jucha went further out on a creative limb, venturing into the dangerous territory that was 9/11. Jucha's foray into the unutterable said much about his willingness to take big risks -- an absolute must for great directors. Equally impressive was Jucha's visual style, which alluded with biting irony to our American obsession with material goods. In the end Jucha had his actors dancing out of the theater's doors, under the streetlights of McKinney, in and out of the audience's view, as his story closed. The moment was brilliant for its beauty and for its heartbreaking implications.

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